Friday, November 5, 2010

Married at 17 - Success or Failure?

Two Rings, One Heart, Our Lives Forever Entwined



Divorce rate in America is the highest of any other country at 50% with young couples placed at the highest risk for failure within the first few years of marriage. Statistics indicate a decline in the divorce rate with couples in their late 20s through 30s. My theory is those who marry young are lacking the maturity to deal with the many facets of married life. That part of their mentality is still under development. With that in mind, the cards were stacked against us from the start.


On Christmas Eve 1978, I became engaged to my husband. The happy news delighted our family and friends. Robin and I had been dating for three years. Like any young girl, I was thrilled with the prospect of getting married. What girl isn’t? Unfortunately, not everyone shared our enthusiasm for the upcoming nuptials. “Why,” you ask. We were mere youngsters and in the opposition’s eyes, we were acting on foolish, whimsical fantasies, but we believed otherwise.


This is where the skeptics entered our realm. They were do-gooders and meant well, but it you know how it is, you can’t tell a teenager anything because they are certain they know everything anyhow. In retrospect and looking through a parent’s eye, I would be quaking in my shoes if my own daughters were wooed away by some young man at such an early. So, I clearly understand why some people were in protest of two young people getting married. Our critics’ main concern was my education. They were confidant I wouldn’t finish my journey in earning my high school diploma.


I’m the oldest of four. At that time, I was 17 years old and a junior in high school. I was delegated adult responsibilities ever since my mother began working outside the home in the mid-70s. That wasn’t unusual for a young girl in southern West Virginia, but I felt I was like a second mother to my brothers and sister. My soon-to-be husband was finishing up his education at a state college. He would graduate with high honors as valedictorian a few days prior to our wedding date. Fortunately for him, he was offered a position with a Federal utility company in the Tennessee Valley upon graduation.


Growing up in rural West Virginia, though, it wasn’t uncommon for girls of that age to be wed and there have been occasions when girls were as young as 15. I fell into the typical demographics for the region; I was anything, but typical, though. Despite wanting to be married, I didn’t desire to begin a family immediately. That was absolutely out of the norm and my goals were clearly defined in my mind - to finish high school and college. I was more than ever determined to prove our skeptics wrong on this score. Who knows, maybe that was their plan all along – reverse psychology tactics?


June 9, 1979, the day of the big event ushered in. The most thrilling occasion of any woman’s life and it was now here for me. Was I nervous? Oh you bet I was. My daddy walked me down the aisle in tune to the traditional Wedding march. I fought back the flood gate of tears damned behind my eyes as a sea of emotions washed over me. My mother, grandmothers, and soon-to-be mother-in-law sat in the church that day crying. Weddings are tear-jerking events for most women. I’d like to tell you our ceremony was a beautiful one, but I’d be deceitful if I told you it was when in fact, I simply cannot remember. I had the worst case of nervous jitters possible. It was so bad that I could not even recite our vows. I felt like my tongue was glued down.


We survived the photo shoot and reception which followed the ceremony with flying colors, and then we were off for that most scared and sanctifying marital trip known as a “Honeymoon”. The first time for husband and wife to come together as God had intended. Oh the innocence of our youth and of the time we were reared. Would it not be grand if our society still kept disciple over this almighty emotional awakening until the appointed time – ones’ wedding night? My husband reserved a quaint, secluded cabin at Blue Stone State Park. Our romantic hide-away was nestled in the ‘Almost Heaven West Virginia’ mountains. It was perfect.


After our unspoiled Honeymoon, we uprooted our few belongings to head to our new home and life in Knoxville, Tennessee. We rented a little place just outside the city limits of Knoxville. I straightaway got enrolled in a high school and we tended to many important jobs to make ourselves official transplants to the area.


The thrill of beginning fresh at a new school had some of the usual appeal, but quickly the luster in my eye became dull. I found it difficult to make new friends at the high school. I was not only the new kid on the block, but married which separated me from virtually every click. What was normal in my hometown- married senior high school girls was practically zero in my new school. I didn’t share anything in common with these kids and felt so out of place. To make matters worse, I had an English teacher who made my life miserable.


What should have been a joyful time for me was anything, but that. I became so dissatisfied with school and made excuses to keep from going to class to avoid an unpleasant situation. Great despair loomed over me, as my dreams crashed around me. I recalled those nagging words of our skeptics, “You’ll never finish school,” ringing through my brain like a bad nursery rhythm. I pulled myself out of my own self-pity and fought my way out of the mess I created and went back to class. When I transferred my old high school transcript to my new school, it gave me an advantage of extra credit hours over my classmates. This allowed me to graduate three months early. I was elated to walk across Colosseum stage to receive my high school diploma in June 1980.


On our first anniversary, family began asking us when we would have children. That wasn’t in my direct future; I had yet to go to college and buy a home. That fall not only did I begin my associate degree studies at a technical school, we bought a house through the help of a FHA THDA loan for first time home owners. We so blessed with this opportunity. The housing and banking industries were in horrible trouble in the early 80s, but this loan made it more reasonable and we were able to invest now into our own place. I was only 18 years old and felt accomplished somehow.


In the spring of 1983, I completed my second original goal – college graduation. The fall of that year, I started my career as a computer sales consultant for a small business. I learned that I wasn’t salesman’s material, but I gained a wealth of valuable training. The five years that proceeded, I went through several positions with each superseding the last. Coincidentally, during this period, my motherly urges would rise and fall like ocean waves. One minute, I wanted a baby and then the next, I didn’t. I contributed these swells of emotions on the circumstances which surrounded me. All of my girlfriends were having babies around me and this planted the seed of yearning in me.


By our 8th anniversary, we finally began entertaining the notion of parenthood. However, the uneasiness of the uncertainty wouldn’t rest. After all, were we willing to give up the freedoms that we’ve known all of our married life to take on such a daunting task? Children are an enormous responsibility and a matter which shouldn’t be taken lightly. Could we handle the demands that come with adding a small one to our lives? That fall 1987, those ole parenting sentiments hit an all-time high. At last, we pushed aside all the nagging negativity that hindered us for years and listened to what God wanted for us and we committed to starting a family.


We have been married 31-years and have been blessed with three fine children. I was fortunate to leave the work force in 1988 after our first child’s birth and have been happy to remain in the home camp as Mommy, housewife, and home educator. We are happier together today than the day we got married. It’s quite true many young couples do not survive their youthful marriages. I credit our own success to God. He is the glue that has kept us together. His leadership has provided a path for us to follow, as we grew up as two separate entities while remaining as one. We are not only husband and wife, but each other’s best-friend. We have learned building a marriage takes many years of tender cultivating and we are happy that we stuck it out ‘for better or for worse’ as we promised in our wedding vows. Although, the grass may appear to be greener on the other side of the fence from time-to-time, let’s face it; it’s just as green on our side, too. Like our wedding vows, we’ll keep to the closing, ‘until death do us part.’ Married at 17, success or failure? I’ll let you decide.

23 comments:

  1. I wasn't married quite as young as you were, I was 19, but I left the workforce the same year you did to be a SAHM, 1988. I think you met with success! We were married for 25 years and then divorced though, just a few months ago. :( We're still best friends, but can't be married.

    I'm following you back from the hop and so happy to meet you!

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  2. @blueviolet...thanks for stopping by. Wow, you spent a good number of years with your hubby! Sorry to hear things didn't work out, but at least you're still best friends and that's something you can't say about most divorced couples. God bless!

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  3. personally, getting married at 17 is not a smart choice..I observed it's bound to fail..it's too young to start a family

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  4. Thanks for following me. It's good to know other home schoolers. I love your story. That does seem young to get married, but "the proof is in the pudding."

    I'm so excited for you that you are having something published. I'm a writer and a big chicken! The only thing I ever sent in was chewed up and sent back. My daughter said that I was really a writer after getting a rejection! I need to "put on my big girl pants" and try to get some things published.

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  5. @ladyinpurple...you are absolutely right 17 is far too young to enter into marriage. By the grace of God, we survived over the years growing together as a couple instead of drifting apart. I wouldn't recommend anyone today to do that.

    @Patricia...as I stated above God gets full credit in keeping our heads on straight. I'm very blessed. Your daughter is right, you're now a writer since you've been rejected. Climb back on the saddle and try again. Don't look back in life with regrets because you didn't do something with your writings because you feared rejection, do it so you can say, I have no regrets I did it and... That part will be written in later. =D Good luck! Glad to have you on board.

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  6. I was married at 18 it lasted 23 years and was very abusive after 3 glad I got out alive....sorry yours didnt work out either at that young age we don't really know who we are yet...
    stopping by from Friday Follow 40 and over

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  7. @Pam...Oh dear, I'm still very much married to the same man and am totally happy. My husband is a very good man and that counts for a lot it. We have been so blessed. All I can say is God has allowed us to stay focused on what's important to each of us. I'm sorry your husband wasn't the kind of person you thought he would be, but thankfully, you made it out of an abusive situation. God bless!

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  8. Cathy, thanks for such a truthful, heartfelt post. I am very hesitant to place anyone in the category of "bound to fail" at marriage. I am beginning to believe if you enter marriage in the right frame of mind, with the right person, we all have the same chances. How you evolve and treat eachother, and your beliefs are what make or break it.

    Thanks for joining my BF community! Glad to have you!

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  9. great post! I'm a new follower! Would love for you to check out my blog and follow back!

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  10. @Let'sMakeADifference...thank you for stopping by and joining me. It's a blessing to connect with other Christian moms. I don't like to predict the outcome of someone's marriage before hand, either. Honestly, though, most 17 years are not equipped to make these sorts of decissions very well, usually. In retrospect, I see that I wasn't as mature as I thought I was, but by God's grace, I kept committed.

    I visited your site and am now following you in return. God bless!

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  11. My parents married when she was 17 and in school. She continued until graduation and didn't have her first child (me) until she was 19. They have been married for nearly 43 years :-)

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  12. @Patrice I am collecting rejection emails but I keep trying. I am determined to get published as a children's author. I work with kids everyday and love to write! Advice Kathy?

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  13. @KidsCreateFun...you're on the right track - keep on keepin' on, girl. However, if you traditional publishers are getting you no where, then you may want to consider the non-traditional route like I did. If you want more info, feel free to zip me a private email at cathykennedystories@gmail.com Please be sure to remind me who you are. New people I have trouble placing sometimes. I guess it's an age thing. LOL. Thanks for stopping by today!

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  14. @KidsCreateFun..also hooray for your mom & dad's continued marriage.

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  15. @Cathy-> that's an exception..if we have God in our lives things will turn out to be good because He promises good life to us.My older sister got pregnant at 17.She didn't want to marry the man though.Since she accepted God everything is good in her family now.She has found a real man to be with her until her last breath.

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  16. @ladyinpurple...having God in the center of your life does make a difference. One HAS to look past his/herself to see what God wants NOT want they want. If we listen to His leadership, then ultimately, we'll be happier. Your sister was wise to wait to find the man God wanted for her, instead of settling to marry the baby's father which isn't always the best alternative. Like the old saying goes, "Two wrongs doesn't a right." God bless!

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  17. Congratulations on Red's (Blogfrog)SPECIAL Spotlight of Rockin' Friends!

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  18. @Sandra...many thanks! I'm getting a very late start on noticing this big event I managed to accomplish. The RedheadRiter was being very generous in spotlighting me today. I'm quite honored to say the least. =D

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  19. I found you through Red, too!

    Age is a VERY FLUID thing... No one is at the same stage of development. It's one thing to KNOW a PERSON is not mature enough for marriage by their actions and lack of ability to be responsible... It's another to make a judgement on a number. Life experience and personality play a HUGE ROLE!! You and your husband PROVE that. ;D

    I was 2 months from being 18 when I married. I was 2nd mother, dealt with various situations that gave3 me more life experience... I DID have my head a bit in the clouds in WANTING to believe HE was mature enough and ignoring the red flags. He back pedaled on ALL of his promises and I tried to make it work for both of us for 8 years. I got 2 amazing kids, but that's it. If he would have BEEN the person he pretended to be in the beginning, or even made ANY EFFORT TOWARD the relationship, this story could have had a different ending. It only lasted the 8 years because I was SO stubbornly determined to prove those "nay-sayers" wrong and NOT be like my mother... (4 marriages in my youth and ALL BAD... I had to be the rock for the younger siblings she started having when I was 9...)

    As it stands, I am now married 13 years (as of the date of your post) to the most wonderful man I could imagine. Now HE has HIS hands full. This is the man God intended for me, because the other one could NEVER have "manned up" enough to be what I've needed as the years have gone on.

    I agree that society is so permissive and out of control, anymore. Our ability to control our "urges" is what sets us apart from the animals.... Hmmmm.... Bunch of WILD ANIMALS!!! LOL!! I REALLY WORRY about how things are going with the most sacred of experiences between a couple being tossed about so casually. *sigh*

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  20. I found you through Red, too!

    Age is a VERY FLUID thing... No one is at the same stage of development. It's one thing to KNOW a PERSON is not mature enough for marriage by their actions and lack of ability to be responsible... It's another to make a judgement on a number. Life experience and personality play a HUGE ROLE!! You and your husband PROVE that. ;D

    I was 2 months from being 18 when I married. I was 2nd mother, dealt with various situations that gave3 me more life experience... I DID have my head a bit in the clouds in WANTING to believe HE was mature enough and ignoring the red flags. He back pedaled on ALL of his promises and I tried to make it work for both of us for 8 years. I got 2 amazing kids, but that's it. If he would have BEEN the person he pretended to be in the beginning, or even made ANY EFFORT TOWARD the relationship, this story could have had a different ending. It only lasted the 8 years because I was SO stubbornly determined to prove those "nay-sayers" wrong and NOT be like my mother... (4 marriages in my youth and ALL BAD... I had to be the rock for the younger siblings she started having when I was 9...)

    As it stands, I am now married 13 years (as of the date of your post) to the most wonderful man I could imagine. Now HE has HIS hands full. This is the man God intended for me, because the other one could NEVER have "manned up" enough to be what I've needed as the years have gone on.

    I agree that society is so permissive and out of control, anymore. Our ability to control our "urges" is what sets us apart from the animals.... Hmmmm.... Bunch of WILD ANIMALS!!! LOL!! I REALLY WORRY about how things are going with the most sacred of experiences between a couple being tossed about so casually. *sigh*

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Cathy-> that's an exception..if we have God in our lives things will turn out to be good because He promises good life to us.My older sister got pregnant at 17.She didn't want to marry the man though.Since she accepted God everything is good in her family now.She has found a real man to be with her until her last breath.

    ReplyDelete
  22. @Patrice I am collecting rejection emails but I keep trying. I am determined to get published as a children's author. I work with kids everyday and love to write! Advice Kathy?

    ReplyDelete
  23. @Let'sMakeADifference...thank you for stopping by and joining me. It's a blessing to connect with other Christian moms. I don't like to predict the outcome of someone's marriage before hand, either. Honestly, though, most 17 years are not equipped to make these sorts of decissions very well, usually. In retrospect, I see that I wasn't as mature as I thought I was, but by God's grace, I kept committed.

    I visited your site and am now following you in return. God bless!

    ReplyDelete

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